Friday, June 08, 2007

Butterflies becoming extinct due to poaching for trade

New Delhi, Jun 6: While the death of a tiger or a lion attracts worldwide attention, small winged beauties like butterflies, which are an indespensable pollinator for vital agricultural crops, are becoming extinct unnoticed.

Illegal trade in these small species is as much thriving as in tiger parts and ivory. One butterfly fetches Rs 500 to the poacher.

Thailand is the hub of the international trade in butterflies, which are killed and dried to be used in greeting cards, books and other decorative purposes.

'Once There Was a Purple Butterfly'--a film produced under the United Kingdom Environment Film Fellowship--focusses attention to the threat to survival of these species.

The film made by Sonia Kapur was screened here yesterday on the occasion of the World Environment Day.

Sonia's trail of the butterflies led her first to interiors of Kerala and then to north east, regions which have a large number of people making their living out of killing butterflies.

''I was led on their trail after reading an article about them.

The interior parts of Kerala and areas in the North east were once home to a large variety of butterflies but now out of the 1500 species, about 400 have already become extinct due to large scale poaching for commercial purposes,'' she told UNI.

The trade in butterflies is absolutely illegal both in India and Thailand but it goes on unchecked, which was a great pity, said Sonia.

''During our research, we found that besides poaching, one more cause of threat to their survival was the use of pesticide on plants, she said.

Sonia feels it was high time that the authorities and the civil society in general recognised the importance of the existence of butterflies, without which no foodgrain production was possible as they were the prime pollinators for agricultural crops.

''One should take lesson from the case of America which had to import live butterflies to release them in their environment for acting as pollinators,'' she said.

She said the main aim of her documentary, which she shot within a month, was to shake the government into action to save the species from extinction.

Sonia took the help of various NGOs like the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) and experts in the fieldlike Dr Chandrashekhar of Bangalore in her research for the film.

The film on butterflies is the first wildlife work of Sonia. She has earlier made films on the problem of terrorism in the Nortn east and women undertrials in the Tihar Jail.

Besides Sonia's films, other works produced under the UK Environment fellowship and screened yesterday were ' The Last dance' by Ashima Narain, the Hunted by Jay Mazoomdar, 'Turtle ia Soup' by Kalpna Subramaniam, 'The Silenced Witness' by P Balan and Radha R, 'Diminishing Resources' by Himanshu Malhotra and Sabina Kidwai and 'Leopards in the Lurch' by Gurmeet Sapal.

--- IANS


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